The Italian Lakes are rightly renowned for their gardens, often centerpieced by glamorous villas. We have long recommended touring the exquisite topiary-filled estate of Villa Balbianello and the camellia- and azalea-rich grounds of Villa Carlotta, both of which overlook Lake Como (the Grand Hotel Tremezzo stands between them). I still do. But on this trip, I decided to explore some gardens new to me, in an effort to unearth some lesser-known gems.
Giardini Botanici di Villa Taranto
I especially enjoyed the botanical garden at Villa Taranto, set amid rolling hills north of Stresa on Lake Maggiore. The Scottish Captain Neil McEacharn created these mostly English-style gardens between 1931 and 1940, filling them with some 20,000 species of plants. Clearly labeled specimen trees tower over winding paths, colorful waterlilies sparkle in ponds, and terraced gardens with tidy flower beds and fountains spill toward the villa itself, backdropped by the snowcapped Alps. It was a wonderful place to ramble for a couple of hours, following hilly but well-paved paths. And there’s an inviting café at the entrance.